Commissioners oppose Prop 16, the PAUSE Act

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by Marissa Lorenz
On Tuesday, the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) directed staff to draft a resolution and a letter opposing the proposed Initiative 16 that has been approved by the State Title Board and can now move on to signature collection in hopes of making it onto the 2022 November ballot.

The Board was unanimous in their “strong” opposition to what was initially filed with the Secretary of State’s Office
as the Protect Animals from Unnecessary Suffering & Exploitation or PAUSE Act.

BOCC Chair Merrit Linke, who raised the issue before the Board and whose family has ranched in Grand County for nearly 140 years, noted that the original name had been challenged as “misleading.”

Referring to the PAUSE acronym, he stated, “That’s all great. I think anybody in the livestock business would advocate for that. I don’t
think anybody wants their animals to have unnecessary suffering and exploitation.”

But Linke would go on to say that, indeed, he thinks the initiative’s popular title “is very misleading. It should be called the “Criminalizing Standard Animal Management Practices.”

Linke voiced his primary reasons for his stance. First, the bill would require livestock to have reached one-quarter of its natural lifespan before it could be processed, and it would explicitly define what the natural lifespans are.

For example, the proposed bill states that the natural lifespan for a cow is 20 years, meaning that it could not be processed before reaching 5 years of age, much older than the average 12 to 22 months at which steers are usually butchered.

It would also impose restrictions on practices such as those used by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to harvest eggs and milt from trout in order to increase fish spawn for stocking of Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs.

Second, the proposed bill would expand what is considered to be a “sexual act with an animal” to include “any intrusion or penetration, however slight, with an object or part of a person’s body into an animal’s anus or genitals.” The new language could criminalize common veterinary procedures, such as neutering or spaying domestic pets, and would restrict industry-standard breeding practices, including artificial insemination of cattle and pregnancy checks.

Analysis of the bill by other groups points out additional implications, including reduced quality of life for genetically-bred animals, increased food insecurity due to rising food costs, loss of community youth programs such as 4-H and FFA, and increased risk to endangered species which “escape extinction only by the use of artificial insemination.”

Likely economic impacts, according to a letter sent to Commissioners and co-signed by representatives of the Urban and Rural Allies against Colorado Initiative #16, include loss of jobs as a consequence of ag producers going out of business or moving out of Colorado; subsequent job loss in supporting industries, “such as grain/feed stores, heavy equipment dealers, energy sector operations, and small-town infrastructures;” and loss of important tax revenue from Colorado’s “$5 billion livestock industry and $1 million beef export market.”

Even negative environmental repercussions could result, advises the letter, “detrimentally impacting natural areas (wildlife refuges, etc.) and increase [sic] the risk of wildfires by pushing operations out of state that use livestock to improve soil composition
and mitigate wildfire risk.”

The extent of the heretofore identified consequences means that opposition is coming from across the board and is comprised of both expected foes–such as the Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers, and Colorado Wool Growers–and unexpected challengers, such as Colorado Governor Jared Polis whose office released a statement in March, reading, “Governor Polis stands in solidarity with Colorado farmers and ranchers in opposition to the PAUSE ballot initiative because it would hurt Colorado and destroy jobs.”

Grand County Commissioners were unified in their own opposition to the proposed bill.

“This is not a political matter,” supported Commissioner Rich Cimino. “This is a way-of-life matter.”
“It’s an agricultural matter,” stated Commissioner Kristen Manguso.

“There was a question that came up–‘this doesn’t affect me; I don’t eat meat’–well, that’s wrong,” Linke summarized.
“That’s misleading. If you eat, period, this affects you.”

Linke asked that the Board adopt a resolution that clarifies Grand County’s position of opposition to Proposition 16, sign onto the group ‘Rural Allies against Colorado Initiative 16,’ and draft a letter to encourage other entities to take similar action.

Commissioners are expected to vote on and sign the resolution at the next regular meeting of the BOCC to be held Tuesday, May 11.